RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Hanscom writes: "Richard F. Hall will land in the history books, if he makes it at all, alongside dreamers and hucksters who sold swampland in Florida and on parched mesa tops in New Mexico."

Cedar Island, Virginia. (photo: Gordon Campbell/Altitude Photography)
Cedar Island, Virginia. (photo: Gordon Campbell/Altitude Photography)


Sea Swallows the Last House in Doomed Virginia Beach Town

By Greg Hanscom, Grist

14 December 14

 

ichard F. Hall will land in the history books, if he makes it at all, alongside dreamers and hucksters who sold swampland in Florida and on parched mesa tops in New Mexico. Hall was the developer who tried to build a beach town on Cedar Island, a patch of wind- and wave-tossed sand off the Virginia coast.

Here’s Tom Horton, writing in The Baltimore Sun in 1998:

Once, Cedar was touted as the mid-Atlantic’s next premier beach resort. “Ocean City, Virginia,” it was dubbed in a glowing, 1950s sales brochure published by developer Richard F. Hall.

“The new Chesapeake Bay Bridge now nearing completion brings the great cities of Washington and Baltimore within pleasant driving distance,” Hall wrote in 1951.

He envisioned a bridge to the island from the Accomack County mainland and a highway running the length of Cedar. Without either one, Hall sold some 2,000 lots …

The bridge and the highway never materialized. Still, Hall’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, and her developer husband, sold more land on the island in the 1980s, even as the houses that people built there washed, one by one, into the sea.

Those who had the means moved their vacation homes away from the advancing surf. A few of them hung on for decades. But now comes the news that the sea has swallowed the last house standing on Cedar Island.

From Rona Kobell at the Bay Journal:

The pretty red fishing cabin has joined the remnants of dozens of other homes — some with grand pianos — in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. But the owners of the last house wanted to be responsible, so they burned the cabin when they knew the end was near. [They] did not want their septic tanks, their drywall, to pollute the ocean. Their care is remarkable only because so many failed to do even the minimum to protect the natural environment that drew them there, and then did what it was always going to do: it turned on them.

Scientists warned that building on Cedar was like trying to sink a foundation into a cloud. Driven by storms, wind, and waves, the island shifted hundreds of feet in some years. As Horton explained in that Sun story, there is simply not enough sand in the surrounding water for the waves to rebuild Cedar Island when storms wash it away. State regulators knew this, but allowed the development anyway.

And people bought it, some of them fully aware that the clock was ticking on the place. As one of the last residents told Horton, even if his place were to wash into the ocean the following week (and it very well may have), “it was worth it to be out here.”

That comment brought to mind a conversation I had with a bookstore clerk in Miami Beach last spring. That community, also built on a barrier island, has spent millions to replenish its eroding beaches — all in an effort to avoid, or at least delay, the same fate as Cedar Island and others before it.

The clerk asked me how much time the community had before the waters that are already lapping at its doorsteps swamp it completely. I told him that scientists believe that the seas will rise three feet or more by the end of the century.

“Well, that’s a couple more mortgage cycles, at least,” he said, optimistically. “As long as there’s money to be made, I don’t think people here are going anywhere.”


e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

Comments   

A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

 
+18 # fredboy 2014-12-14 10:36
Used to cover the region as a reporter. Cedar Island and so many of the region's islands are magnificent--bu t no place for permanent shelter.

Nor'easters pummel and flood them. And the sea rise will swallow them.

Celebrate their natural gifts. Visit them. Walk. Fish. And be amazed by their beauty.
 
 
+7 # Thebigkate 2014-12-14 11:50
We thought about buying land there back in the 80s. It was such a lovely, unspoiled piece of land, and I remember a peregrine falcon just sitting on the beach. Sad that it's gone, but many other barrier islands on the East Coast will no doubt meet the same fate. Would not be surprised to see Assateague National Seashore become a statistic.
 
 
+3 # Malcolm 2014-12-14 13:23
Shit! Until I read the last couple of paragraphs, I was concerned that I might have a cardiac arrest, as the author didn't seem to be blaming these homes' destruction on global warming!
 
 
+6 # earlymusicus 2014-12-14 18:50
"The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
And the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down and the floods came up,
The rains came down and the floods came up,
The rains came down and the floods came up,
And the house on the sand fell flat."

Sometimes there's a lot of wisdom in songs we sang as little kids!
 
 
+2 # lewagner 2014-12-14 19:40
Weird! I was thinking about that song just a few hours ago, and hadn't thought of it for probably 50 years. I couldn't remember all the words, though. Thanks!
 
 
0 # lnason@umassd.edu 2014-12-14 20:09
Cedar Island is a barrier island and therefore inevitably will be moved toward the mainland over time. This phenomenon has nothing whatsoever to do with global warming.

One might want to blame the authorities for allowing development but aggressive development has been the norm for barrier islands all along the eastern seaboard for hundreds of years. Here in Massachusetts much of the coastline consists of barrier beaches and islands and the authorities are powerless to stop development. There would be open riots if everyone were removed from Cape Cod, Martha's Vinyard, Nantucket, Plum Island and Revere Beach....

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
+1 # Ken Halt 2014-12-14 22:13
Nowhere in the article is there a mention of global warming. Do you have an agenda, perhaps? Problem with reading skills? Problem with critical thinking skills?
 
 
+1 # Malcolm 2014-12-14 22:47
A bit of politeness goes a long way, Ken.

I hate to tell you, but when Hanscon said, "The clerk asked me how much time the community had before the waters that are already lapping at its doorsteps swamp it completely. I told him that scientists believe that the seas will rise three feet or more by the end of the century", he wasn't predicting a heavy rain.

Lee is right about global warming. I disagree with his assertion that "authorities are powerless to stop development", though. That's ridiculous.
 
 
-2 # Ken Halt 2014-12-16 19:03
After more than three decades of conservative ascendancy and their pro-biz, anti-Bill of Rights, climate-change- denial, creationist agenda, trickle-down taxation, free market economics, etc, I am tired of stupidity and I am tired of being polite to people who don't respect facts, science, or the right of other people to the pursuit of happiness as they prefer to pursue it. Being polite to these people hasn't worked, and they are not respectful or polite in foisting their agenda on others. However much Lee tries to deny anthropogenic global warming, and she does it relentlessly, it is happening. The US east coast is experiencing, for some reason having to do with oceanic nodes, a very high rate of sea level rise. This happening because the arctic and antarctic sea ice is melting, glaciers are melting, the Greenland ice cap is melting. More water and less ice means more water in the oceans and more water in the atmosphere, creating more warming and less ice in a feedback loop. Conservs have also ceded gov't control to business and profit so yes, local gov'ts have little control over development, which is seen as deprivation of profits that might be earned on acreage, acreage that will soon be inundated but can be built on today and sold to some ignorant buyer.
 
 
-2 # Kootenay Coyote 2014-12-14 21:33
Dumbest.
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN